NuForce Cube Review: Ultra-Portable Media Center
They finally arrived. After careful negotiations and a few flattering words, we got our hands on a box full of NuForce goodies. While we certainly are grateful for all the quality stuff we got and expect to create equally impressive videos for a number of the products we got such as the NuForce Air DAC iWireless system, one of the most impressive and visually striking items we received is NuForce Cube. The elegant lines, a clear box resembling the minimalism of Apple packaging, and rich solid colors stood in stark contrast to the dry brown of the cardboard shipping box. But what is most impressive, apart from the aesthetics of the Cube, is the range of technologies NuForce has integrated into this diminutive 2″ box.
How Many Features Can Be Packed Into a 2″ Cube?
In an effort to beef-up your mobile rig, NuForce has equipped the Cube with a headphone amplifier, a 16-bit/48kHz Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC), and an 3.5mm (1/8″) AUX. In theory, the goal of fitting so many functions in one place is to offer users a central sound entertainment hub. To that end, the Cube definitely delivers the key terms that will ignite the interest of virtually any audiophile. Adding to the portability of the Cube, it has a built-in battery that can deliver roughly eight continuous hours of playback and can be recharged through USB connection.
While packing so many features seems like it may become unwieldy, switching between the USB DAC function of the Cube in speaker mode to headphone mode was as easy plugging the phones in. To test the claims power of the headphone amplifier, I linked it to headphones rated at 100 Ohms. By no means the highest ohm load available, but one where issues start to become apparent if the cans are being under-powered (beside, the Cube is intended as a portable system. If you consider headphones over 100 ohms “portable” maybe you should reconsider).
As a headphone amplifier and DAC, the Cube performed remarkably well and delivered the sound quality expected of NuForce: clean, true to the signal, and minimally colored. But, to prevent skirting the most important question of the speaker’s performance too long, I move on.
Unlike Hephaestus who according to ancient Greek myth unleashed evil on the world upon opening Pandora’s box against Zeus’ command, unlocking the power of the NuForce Cube will not be as chaotic nor as reprehensible.
Instead, your first impression is likely to be pure awe at volume this 2″ box can achieve. The first notes flooded through the speaker with utmost authority sounding loud and shockingly clear. For the fact that the speaker is no larger than a Kennedy Half-Dollar, the speaker retained a respectable amount of detail in the high frequencies and just enough bass to round out the reproduction and give the music a sense of depth.
While the Cube performed impressively in at mid-volume levels, it began to loose its brilliance once we pushed it up to its limits. Of course, no one expects to blow down the house or set off alarms with this little thing, but distortion is never a good thing and there was a perceivable level of distortion once we reached the highest volume thresholds.
For what it is and what it is designed to do, the NuForce Cube performs at a high level. It is hard to imagine a speaker with so many features, let alone one that can match the quality of the Cube. Although its somewhat high price-tag may deter some buyers, those who know what they are looking for and understand the quality of NuForce products will not hesitate to rejoice over the NuForce Cube.